Wednesday 21 February 2018

Dissidents fired shots during Belfast riots

Michael McHugh

Dissident republicans were responsible for the gun shots which wounded a press photographer during serious rioting in Belfast, police said.

The Press Association photographer was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital with an injury to his right leg following the burst of three shots.

He is said to be in a stable condition.

Petrol bombs, fireworks, bottles and bricks were among items thrown at police during a second night of the worst violence in East Belfast for many years.

A police spokeswoman said: Police can confirm that dissident republicans were responsible for the shots that were fired during last night's disorder in East Belfast."

Dissident republicans have been responsible for a string of attacks on members of the police and army.

In April they killed Constable Ronan Kerr, 25, in an under-car booby trap bomb outside his home in Omagh, Co Tyrone.

There have been pitched battles between loyalists and republicans in the Lower Newtownards Road and Short Strand areas during the last two days. The police were targeted after they came between the two sides.

The Ulster Volunteer Force has been blamed by senior police for igniting trouble after a second night of serious rioting in Belfast.

Assistant Chief Constable Alistair Finlay said the loyalist paramilitary group started the violence.

Mr Finlay said: "The UVF in East Belfast started this - there was no sense of anyone trying to finish that.

"Their hands are upon this, whether by direction, by omission or commission."

A 20-year-old woman was arrested on a weapons charge during the rioting, which saw youths smashing police vehicles with sledgehammers and hurling petrol bombs.

A water cannon vehicle sustained a cracked windscreen and there were marks from live fire.

Several shots were fired and a Press Association photographer was shot in the right leg. He is recovering in hospital.

Police fired 66 baton rounds.

Mr Finlay said the attacks were less orchestrated than the previous night, when two people were injured by gunfire.

He appealed for parents to look after their children.

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